Cocktails-to-go, outdoor dining will continue another year
Baker signs extensions in $1.6b supp budget
RESTAURANTS WILL be allowed to sell cocktails-to-go for another year, under a bill Gov. Charlie Baker signed Friday.
The Legislature and Baker agreed to extend the popular pandemic-era policy to April 1, 2023. It had been scheduled to expire May 1, 2022.
Bob Luz, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said drinks to go has become an important piece of business for restaurants and their guests. “Our guests buy restaurant quality meals to bring home with them now because it’s prepared better by a chef than they can make at their house. It’s the same thing with specialty cocktails,” Luz said. “No one can make a Kowloon Mai Tai like you get at Kowloon.”
Luz said in the winter, up to 45 percent of restaurants’ weekly sales are currently being made via takeout and delivery, and between 22 percent and 25 percent the rest of year.
Both extensions were included in a $1.6 billion supplemental budget bill that Baker signed Friday, just one day after lawmakers sent it to his desk. The bill includes $700 million for COVID-19 related testing, treatment, vaccinations, and health care facility staffing. Most of this will be reimbursed by the federal government. There is additional money for special education school staffing and human service provider wages. The bill includes another $100 million in rental assistance money, to beef up state housing programs as federal programs are winding down. There is $100 million to help communities repair winter damage to their roads.
The bill also includes two provisions inspired by the ongoing war in Ukraine. It includes $10 million to help resettle Ukrainian and other refugees and immigrants. The law also requires the Pension Reserve Investment Management Board to divest from assets in Russia.
Treasurer Deborah Goldberg’s office has said the state pension system’s exposure to Russia is around $140 million, or 0.2 percent of the fund. While Goldberg said she personally would support divestment from Russian assets, PRIM has a fiduciary duty to investors and is not authorized to divest money based on international foreign policy concerns unless explicitly directed to by the Legislature.The Legislature did not include in the bill a proposal Baker made to appoint a guardian ad litem for every child involved in a Juvenile Court Case who was allegedly subjected to abuse or neglect. Baker wrote in his signing letter that he hopes this policy “will be addressed soon by the Legislature, in order to protect the best interests of children.”
Baker returned with an amendment a section of the bill that would provide $8 million for early intervention supports. Baker said he supports providing the money but wants to see a change in the formula regarding how it is distributed, to steer more money toward communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and toward providers offering more in-person services.